ET IN ARCADIA EGO
My interest in this phrase was re-aroused when, following an enjoyable read of ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and subsequently recalling the same phrase which had been discussed in ‘The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail’ by Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln, I encountered the words, “Et In Arcadia Ego”, for a second time. My own work has involved historical research in a quite different area, however I have had a go at deciphering a number of coded texts and drawings and have had some successes. You can read about that work at www.free-energy.co.uk.
I had always had misgivings about the phrase and its reported meaning and I wondered if it might conceal a Latin anagram. Various attempts to understand and find a deeper meaning have been tried including Latin anagrams and, in some cases, on concluding that the phrase is incomplete, adding what was believed to be a missing word or two. None of these attempts have been successful in my opinion, but have allowed the authors to pursue a trail of ingenious if dubious logic to various denouements, none of which has produced a convincing solution. The phrase is often said to have originated in Virgil's fifth eclogue and was subsequently used as a memento mori, and is usually interpreted as ‘Even in Arcadi I exist’, the ‘I’ representing ‘Death’. It appeared in a number of paintings by some of the most famous painters of the 18th and 19th centuries. Nicolas Poussin, Giovanni Francesco Barbieri aka Guercino or Il Guercino, both painted several versions which included the phrase, which ostensibly is supposed to convey the sheer mortality of man, Arcadia being a kind of earthly paradise.
However there is a widespread belief that the paintings conceal a hidden message. The version by Poussin is said to have been constructed using a complex arrangements of the golden mean and it is clear that this at least is true. But is it just a style which evolved naturally in an attempt to produce a perfect painting or is a hint of something deeper? The words have long been the subject of attention in the history of Art but recently they have been associated with the supposed history of the Priory of Sion myth popularised in the books such as The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and the Da Vinci Code. The strange thing is that prior to Guercino’s painting in which the words were first seen, no-one, it seems, can point to their origin. Virgil's fifth eclogue introduces the theme of Arcadia but the words in question do not appear in any of his works. So where did they originate and what do they mean? I can’t answer the first question but I may have unravelled something new in their meaning.
The authors of ‘The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail’ speculated that the words could be an anagram and suggested ‘I! Tego arcana Dei’, which translates to ‘Begone! I keep God's secrets’, others such as in the book, ‘The Tomb of God’, by Richard Andrews and Paul Schellenberger, theorized that the Latin sentence is missing the word "sum". They proposed the idea that, by including their supposed missing word, ‘sum’ the phrase ‘Et in Arcadia ego sum’ could be an anagram for ‘Arcam Dei Tango Iesu’, which would mean ‘I touch the tomb of God — Jesus’. I am unable to accept their interpretations and yet they are not, in my opinion, that far off in their efforts to drag some kind of meaning to this phrase. An anagram it may be, so even though their results can be called into question, their methodology was on the right lines. ‘Et in arcadia ego’, contains the word ‘arcane’ and ‘arcana’, anagrammatically, - which means ‘secret’, to put it simply, but I was searching for a meaning composed from the original phrase. I returned to one of my favourite websites, http://www.arrak.fi/ag/index_en.html, which produces anagrams in Latin, as well as other languages. I had given much consideration to the thought processes of those who devised this phrase and I came to the conclusion that it probably originated as two words.
My reasons for this conclusion were arrived at by considering what information could possibly be held within a short phrase and I decided that it must refer to a place, for whatever reason. Two words can identify an area and a specific point within tha area. Two words can often be made into something meaningful provided you can use some shorter words in the resulting phrase and it seemed to me that ‘Et In Arcadia Ego’ was a typical anagram of a meaningful two word phrase - and it had just enough spiritual/philosophical connotations to pass muster as a memento mori. I therefore chose two words for the program to search for anagrams, and I entered the words ‘Et in arcadia ego’ selected the language as Latin and was surprised and delighted to discover that it could only find one anagram. It produced the two word phrase ‘conditae graiae’.
A search for the word ‘conditae’ turns up phrases with which it is associated and a typical one is ‘anno urbis conditae 'in the year of the foundation of the city (Rome)'. So we can assume it means something like ‘the founding of’ or ‘the foundation of’ and later I also found the word ‘source’ as a possible translation. A similar search for ‘graiae’ produces the fact that in Greek it refers to the three immortal old hags from the Perseus/Gorgon myth who shared an eye and a tooth. Other sources reveal that the Graeae ("old women" or "gray ones", alternatively spelled Graiai, Graiae, Graii ), were three sisters, one of several trinities of goddesses from Greek mythology. The Graeae were considered one aspect of the "old man of the sea," and all of which were mythical beings either of the sea or the underworld, a connection, coincidentally, discussed in The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, but not apparently arrived at by the same route as I have followed. However we are not using Greek but Latin.
In Latin ‘Graiae’ refers to a Roman province, Alpes Penniae et Graiae’ or ‘Alpes Poeninae et Graiae’. The Graian Alps (Italian: Alpi Graie; French: Alpes Grées) are a mountain range in the western part of the Alps. They are located partly in France, Italy and Switzerland. The Graian Alps can be divided into four groups; the Mont Blanc group (north of the Little St Bernard Pass); the Central group (the watershed between the Little St Bernard Pass and the Col du Mont Cenis); the Western or French group, and the Eastern or Italian group. The French side of the Graian Alps is drained by the river Isère and its tributary Arc and that is interesting because the word ‘Arc’ has strong connotations for the many people who have researched this historical mystery. The word ‘Arc’ also, of course, forms part of the phrase ‘Et in arcadia ego’, which is a nice confirmation that we might be on the right track. I resolved to look into the hisory of this area for further clues.
The Arc is a 128 km long river in the Savoie department of south-eastern France. It is a left tributary of the Isère river, which it joins at Chamousset, approximately 15 km downstream from Albertville. Its source is near the border with Italy, in the Graian Alps, northeast of Bonneval-sur-Arc. The valley of the Arc, the Maurienne, is an important transport artery between France and Italy. Upon reconsidering what I had found so far, I wondered if the word ‘conditae’ might also mean ‘source’ as foundation can imply beginning. Could the phrase ‘Et In Arcadia Ego’ be alluding to the source of the river Arc?
The Maurienne valley is one of the great transverse valleys of the Alps. The river which has shaped the valley since the last glaciation is, as we saw, the Arc. The valley begins at the village of Écot (near the town of Bonneval-sur-Arc), at the foot of the Col de l’Iseran, and ends at the confluence of the Arc and the Isère in the village of Aiuton. The mountains on the southern side are the Dauphine Alps and the Cottin Alps. On the northern side are the part of the Graian Alps known as the Vanoise. The capital, Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne lies at the confluence of the Arc and the Arvan River. So does the phrase point to the source (foundation) of the river arc at Écot, near Bonneval-sur-Arc? Maybe.
Historically, control of the western Alps eluded the Roman empire for some time. Determined tribes as well as bandits preyed on those trying to cross the mountain passes. However, by 15 or 14 BC Roman troops had finally gained control of the mountainous area. The northern section of this narrow Alpine strip (which included the passes known today as the Little St.Bernhard and the Great St.Bernhard) was made into a province in 14 BC under the name Alpes Graiae et Poeninae. Bonneval Sur Arc is steeped in history from as early as 534 when man first established a settlement here all the way up to the Second World War when Bonneval was seen as a national symbol in its resistance against the invading armies. Flanked by stunning mountains and interlaced with majestic glaciers Bonneval truly is the gateway to the French Alpine wilderness and all that lies within her. Since the nineteenth century, archaeological work has confirmed the presence of an ancient site north of La Pacaudière at each of four places-respectively "Berger", "the Maladière", "Treillard" and "Gandelière." Now of course,“Berger” which means Shepherd in French clearly has an interesting connection to Poussin’s Shepherds of Arcadia. And of course the phrase “conditae graiae” does not contain the word “arc” and yet it is the main river there and does appear in the phrase “Et In Arcadia Ego” which is interesting if who ever thought it up wished to hide the connection.
I have no idea what meaning can be attributed to the place or why it was necessary to obscure it within mysterious secret societies, but there it is for what it’s worth. This as far as I have got. I would be interested to hear of any progress in support of this piece of research and I would appreciate it if you would acknowledge any help you think I have given by mentioning my name, John Collins and my other web site at www.free-energy.co.uk